January 4th, 2019
By Natan Schleider, M.D.
‘I don’t need the flu vaccine,’ said a mid 30s healthy female patient to me yesterday, ‘it always makes me sick plus I can count on herd immunity.’
My patients are well read, opinionated, and know plenty of medical jargon to make their point. Herd immunity, if you’re wondering, means that if everyone else around you is vaccinated and immune to a disease, the chances of them giving it to you is very low.
Let me also add the influenza vaccines do not give live virus, just the proteins of the virus to illicit an antibody and immune response if you are exposed to the virus. The immune response caused by the vaccine results in some cold symptoms like fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough, aches/pains, but DOES NOT cause the flu.
So why all the hype about the flu vaccine?
There are several answers:
- The media often has nothing really news worthy so given the mantra’ if it bleeds it reads’ they can always turn to the dangers of the latest deadly flu virus bound to land you on a ventilator before you can change the channel. Remember all the media hype about Avian Flu (H5N1) about 5-10 years ago. Turned out to be nothing. And the dreaded Swine Flu of a few years ago infected the airwaves aggressively (and fortunately did not infect many people). If you really want information about influenza ask your doctor, check the CDC and WHO websites, and ignore the publish or perish journalists.
- Historically, certain strain of influenza were actually quite deadly. the most infamous in Spanish flu, an aggressive form of H1NI influenza virus that spread quickly and was unusual in that it killed more young health adults (ages 20-40) than the young or elderly. Over 100 years later, this pandemic killed more people than those that died in WWI.
- If another aggressive flu virus rears its head, the flu vaccine does a nice job at keeping you alive–presuming the CDC and WHO have guesstimated the right 3 or 4 viruses to put into the vaccine that season.
I recommend all my patients get the flu vaccine. I get it annually and have never had the flu (which let me remind you results in days of miserable fever and chills and 2-4 weeks to recover…this isa cold on steroids).
My flu vaccine of choice is the quadrivalent vaccine (meaning it has four flu virus proteins in it) while the classical influenza vaccine has three. If you are worried about mercury (thimerosal) get the preservative free vaccine. If you are worried about autism note there is little if any data to support vaccines causing autism but it is up to you. If you are worried the shot will hurt, make sure the doctor injects with a brand new needle (that is, not the same needle used to draw up the vaccine from the vial as this will blunt the end of the needle and cause more pain).
After the flu vaccine, you can take Tylenol or Advil or Alleve and can expect your arm to be sore for a day or three.
Take home message: get the flu vaccine yearly and stop wasting your time and losing sleep over the myriad of journalists that have nothing better to do than scare you about so they can make a living.
Thx for reading,
Natan Schleider, M.D.